After the wonderful, helpful seminar I left for Connecticut, saying goodbye to my blond friend. We never met again; our summer friendship was a pleasant and uplifting gift from God for both of us and was needed no more. It was a God sighting: given, received and released.
I shocked my family with my enthusiasm for Jesus, along with my hippy clothes from California (it was 1969). I had a good two-week visit, then was off again to Alaska.
It was the end of August when I arrived back in Savoonga but there were already snow flurries. My students told me they’d been swimming in July in some snowmelt pools in the Tundra. They described the weather as being really hot—up to 60 degrees! I didn’t want to know what the temperature of the water was.
This year there was a new principal teacher and his wife. We got along together quite well right from the beginning.
Over the summer a new school building had been completed and we began classes in this beautiful facility. What a change from the old Quonset hut. Just for a start we had windows in this building while the Quonset hut had none!
Teaching was going better. I had some idea of how to keep discipline, the kids knew me enough to be willing to cooperate and the new facility had them somewhat in awe.
I very much wanted to live fully for the Lord, to do everything the way He wanted it. I began right away memorizing and meditating on the chapters that Bill had given us, doing a few verses each week.
Along with this I began to pray about everything I did: what tie to wear, who to visit after school, what to eat for supper. I wanted to be obedient to God.
As time went on, I developed what I thought was a way of hearing God’s voice. I would pray for guidance, make my mind go blank, and take the first thing that came into it as God’s direction. In doing this I unknowingly stepped into the shadow land of the occult that ruled on the island. Some of my friends later told me more of their experiences.
One Eskimo friend looked down as he spoke, “It was nighttime and the spirit came into my house and spoke to me. It said that if I would worship it, I would be given power.
“When I asked what kind of power that would be, immediately the walls of my house were lifted up and I could see out onto the Tundra.
“I was afraid and refused to give in, telling the spirit to go away.”
“Do others have such experiences?” I asked.
“Oh yes, most of us have such a happening. One friend of mine was out hunting when the demon came and made a new shotgun appear out of the Tundra. Another was taken by a demon to the village store in the middle of the night. The door opened by itself. ‘Take whatever you want,’ said the demon. Such are the experiences we have.
“Some have accepted the demon’s offer. They have power, but they are also in bondage.”
It was in this atmosphere that I unknowingly opened myself to spiritual forces. I was getting direction, but from where?
I began to hear a voice in my head. One night it told me to go out barefooted in the snow, which I did without any ill effects. Then it told me that my father had died and that I was to go back to Connecticut. I immediately made plans to leave, much to the dismay of the new principal teacher and the Eskimos—we were only two months into the school year. Who would teach my students? At the same time, everyone knew there was something wrong with me and didn’t know how to help.
All communication from the BIA villages was by radio phone at 4 pm every afternoon. All the radio operators could hear what everyone else said, so they got all the news that the hippie teacher had problems and was leaving Savoonga.
Dave Shinen, my Bible translator mentor, was living in Nome now and heard that I was leaving the island that day and why. Having lived on the island for many years, he knew exactly what was happening in my life, so he went to the tiny airport in Nome to meet me.
When he got there, he saw the eight-passenger plane sitting on the apron and knew I’d arrived. He went into the one room terminal building and asked the agent at the desk where I was.
“Oh,” said the man, “He didn’t come on the plane from Savoonga.” Dave knew this was a trick of the enemy and went out to search around the airport. He found me looking for a way to get to town and took me to his home.
I described to him my spiritual journey with the voice that spoke in my head. He quietly explained how I had opened myself to the dark spiritual powers of the island. He led me through a prayer, confessing my sin of looking for guidance in the wrong way, in renouncing my listening to the voice and surrendering afresh to the Lord Jesus. He directed me again to seeking God’s guidance through the Word.
This experience had shaken me deeply on an emotional level; I felt weak and unstable, so I spent a couple of days with Dave, getting guidance and support. Then I took the next flight back to Savoonga.
Although everyone was glad I came back to teach, they were all uncomfortable with me. Even though the Eskimos knew about the forces I had dabbled with, they still treated me with the deference reserved for the insane.
The principal teacher was more forthright, but it was clear that my foray into the occult had negated any witness I had with him.
By God’s grace the Presbyterian pastor, Sig Kristiansen, who served both villages, was in Savoonga when I returned. He was the only one who treated me like a normal person. His love and grace were the support I needed. During the next couple of weeks he had me over for supper several times and we spent time talking about the experience and what it meant.
Picture: teaching in the new school